The Population Health Scholar Track is a comprehensive, longitudinal curriculum in population health, which includes additional training experiences and a rigorous outcomes-based scholarly project. The goal of the track is to give students the knowledge and skills to apply population health principles to clinical practice and contribute to the improvement of the health of individuals, communities, and populations. Future physicians need to be trained in population health to address the challenges of reducing the cost and improving the quality of health care in order to improve outcomes and reduce disparities. By educating our students about population health concepts and data, and increasing their opportunities to apply these skills, this track will equip them with the tools they need to thrive in a transformed health care system. Students completing all the components will receive special distinction at graduation as a Population Health Scholar.

Objectives

At the completion of this scholarly track, students will be able to:

Health Systems

  • Describe the structure, stakeholders and processes of local, state and national health systems
  • Articulate how the integration of public health and primary care can improve population health
  • Analyze the role of population health management, quality improvement, and systems thinking in improving health

Public Health

  • Examine the characteristics that bind people together as a community—including social ties, common perspectives and interests, and geography—and how these relate to health
  • Address the role of socioeconomic, environmental, cultural, and other population-level determinants of health on the health status and health care of individuals and populations
  • Explore community-based strategies that improve the health of populations including policies and program interventions
  • Analyze the role of community engagement as a strategy for identifying community health concerns, improving health, and reducing health disparities
  • Describe basic methods of public health epidemiology including surveillance, disease tracking, and epidemic management, as well as the role of clinicians in these activities

Analytic and critical thinking

  • Use qualitative and quantitative data to assess the health status of a population
  • Apply quality improvement principles in clinical and community settings
  • Assess the process and outcomes of interventions

Leadership and Interprofessional Skills

  • Develop skills for effective leadership, communication, and collaboration as a member of an interprofessional health care team
  • Acquire skills to lead interprofessional teams in health improvement
Curriculum

The track's curriculum consists of the following five core components:

1. Summer Seminar Series - there are three required meetings the summer prior to year two: 

  • Pre-practicum two-day seminar will include an overview of the track and the summer practicum objectives, population health improvement, how to develop research questions, research skills workshop, IRB 101, quality and safety, and making the most of a mentoring relationship. 
  • Mid-practicum one-day seminar will include practicum/project updates, population health management, using data to improve health, and evaluation methods. 
  • Post-practicum one-day debrief will include presentations on their projects to date, student reflections about their practicums, leadership skills, and strategies to maintain work on the scholarly project and sustain the mentorship relationship. 

2. Population Health Summer Practicum - 

  • Scholars will conduct a population health research project during the summer between their 1st and 2nd year.  This could involve (a) participating in an on-going research or quality improvement project, (b) conducting a policy analysis or similar project with an organization working on population health, or (c) designing and seeking IRB approval for a new research or quality improvement project.  Students will be assigned a mentor who is a content expert either from the GUMC faculty or from a local public health agency or community-based organization. In addition, scholars will have a track faculty advisor, who may or may not be the same person as the mentor.
  • Summer placement is required in order to begin research. Scholars may choose from several MedStar Health clinics or local public health organizations that are on the frontlines of transforming care for individuals and populations. For specific list of approved practicum sites and descriptions, see the Common Application. In special circumstances, the track Director may grant an exemption to the approved sites; an exemption is conditional upon an approved population health project proposal and mentor.

3. Population Health Independent Scholarly Project - Scholars will complete their Independent Study Project (ISP) requirement on a population health topic using population health or community-based data sources as relevant. The ISP is designed to promote students’ independent scientific investigation and provide them with an opportunity to explore areas relevant to the health of populations in greater depth. The mentored scholarly project will be expected to lead to the generation of new knowledge. Scholars ​are encouraged to use the project they conducted during the summer between their 1st and 2nd years as the basis for their Independent Study Project (ISP) requirement. They will present their project orally and as a poster.

4. Population Health Student Interest Group - Scholars will be responsible for a speaker series in which they will choose the topic from the curriculum and suggest a speaker. In order to plan and carry out the series, students will have to familiarize themselves with pertinent trends in population health and with thought-leaders and prominent individuals in the field. This activity will require the development of leadership and organizational skills. Scholars will share project updates during this forum.

5. The Larger Context: Health Systems, Policy and Public Health for Clinicians (HPP) - Scholars will participate in a four week fourth year elective with residents and fellows. The elective is sponsored by the Department of Medicine. The first two weeks are small group sessions in the mornings and site visits in the afternoons. During the second two weeks, students will finalize their project reports.

Yearly Requirements

Year One

  • Application to the Population Health Scholar Track.
  • Preference is given to those who declare their intention to participate actively in all curricular components. Enrollment is limited to 8-10 students to ensure practicums and mentored projects for all scholars. 

Summer Prior to Year Two

  • Summer Seminar Series - see #1 above
  • Summer Research Practicum – see  #2 above
  • IRB Training: Students will complete two components from the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training.
  • Formulate research question and begin scholarly project – see #3 above

Years Two and Three

  • Individual Scholarly Project: ongoing work on population health scholarly project.
  • Biannual Scholar/Mentor Meetings: Scholars will meet at least biannually with their research mentor.
  • Population Health Student Interest Group: see #4 above
  • Population Health Grand Rounds: Scholars are encouraged to attend grand rounds with population health topics held by the Departments of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.
  • Mandatory Annual Assessment of Progress: All students enrolled in the track will meet annually with one of the track faculty regarding progress.

Year Four

  • Individual Project: Completion of population health scholarly project.
  • Biannual Student/Mentor Meetings: Students will meet at least biannually with their faculty mentor.
  • Biannual Speaker Forum: see #4 above
  • Health Policy Elective: see #5 above
  • Project report: Students will receive faculty feedback on their project prior to the final assessment/debriefing.
Assessment
  • All students completing the Population Health Track will debrief with one of the track faculty no later than April of year four to determine successful completion of the scholar track. 
  • Scholars will be assessed by their attendance at all required events, active participation in group discussions and journal club, and a final scholarly project that will serve as a comprehensive demonstration of program competencies.  
  • The program effectiveness will be assessed for ongoing improvement through: 
  1. a pre- and post-test of knowledge and skills attained during the Population Health Scholars summer seminar; 
  2. student and faculty post-seminar debriefing;
  3. regular meetings with faculty; and
  4. a biannual faculty team debriefing.